The Confidence to Choose

Dr. Holly Cross

Holly Buckman

Class of 2014
Majors: psychology and sociology with a concentration in criminal justice

Assistant Professor, Psychology

As a senior at Valpo, Holly Buckman wrestled with a momentous decision — whether or not to enroll in a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology. She enjoyed her undergraduate work at Valpo, but was she ready to invest the next several years of her life in an advanced degree?

Just as the critical decision point approached, Holly traveled to the annual meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society in New Orleans. With two other Valpo students and Amanda Zelechoski, a former member of the psychology faculty, she presented preliminary findings of her cross-cultural comparison of stress on police officers in the United States and the United Kingdom.

“I had the opportunity to talk to professionals in the field I was considering,” Holly says. “It gave me a great sense of what my life might be like if I went to graduate school and of the kind of community I would join. It gave me valuable insight into the decision I had to make.”

After the conference, Holly arrived at her decision: she accepted an offer of admission to the Ph.D. program in clinical psychology at Palo Alto University in Palo Alto, Calif.

There are many career paths open to a psychology major at Valpo, she notes.

“The skills I learned as a psych major are ones that employers value in psychology settings and across the board,” she says. “There are many different avenues you can take because it’s such a widely useful set of skills.”

Holly, who hails from North Judson, Ind., graduated from Valpo with a double major in psychology and sociology with a concentration in criminal justice. Interested in the intersection of psychology with criminal justice, she plans to concentrate her studies in forensic psychology. She’s had numerous opportunities to explore aspects of the field during her career at Valpo.

“Internships with a social-services organization in nearby South Bend and with the victims’ assistance unit of the Porter County Prosecutor’s Office in Valparaiso were illuminating,” she says. “I was able to interact with some of the populations that I might work with someday as a psychologist or social-service provider. It helped me understand how social-service organizations and nonprofits work, so it was very helpful in refining my career choice.”

Research opportunities in the psychology department were plentiful, Holly notes.

“Because the class sizes are small, you know the professors very well, and it’s easy to approach them to ask if they need research assistants. The department also offers research classes that give you a little more support from professors than independent research. And it’s been great to work alongside graduate students,” says Holly.

“I’ve done research with Professor Zelechoski for almost three years,” Holly says, citing work on topics such as child trauma in the juvenile-justice system and child custody as well as policing.

It all adds up to confidence that she has made an informed decision.